UNICEF urges European leaders to quickly turn new commitments for refugees and migrants into action for children

 

UNICEF urges European leaders to quickly turn new commitments for refugees and migrants into action for children

NEW YORK/ HONG KONG, 11 September 2015 – UNICEF welcomes increasing commitments by European leaders to support refugees and migrants – commitments that should now trigger urgent action by all EU Member States to fully protect children.

Children already make up a quarter of all asylum seekers in Europe so far this year. In the first six months of 2015, 106,000 children sought asylum in the EU, mostly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan – an increase of almost 75 per cent since 2014.
“Protecting refugee and migrant children from harm, especially as winter approaches, has to be at the very heart of Europe’s response,” said Yoka Brandt, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director, speaking ahead of a key European Union meeting on Monday that will consider next steps in the refugee and migrant crisis. “All these children, who have already suffered so much, have the right to protection and to dignity. Now is the time to make those rights a reality.” On 10 September, a young boy and an older child stand among other people who have fled their homes amid the ongoing refugee and migrant crisis, on a rainy day in the town of Gevgelija, on the border with Greece. In late August 2015 in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, more than 52,000 people have been registered at the border by police in the town of Gevgelija, after entering from Greece, since June 2015. Since July 2015, the rate of refugees and migrants transiting through the country has increased to approximately 2,000 to 3000 people per day. Women and children now account for nearly one third of arrivals. An estimated 12 per cent of the women are pregnant. Many are escaping conflict and insecurity in their home countries of Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and the Syrian Arab Republic. There are children of all ages traveling with their families. Some are unaccompanied minors aged 16–18 years who are traveling in groups with friends. They are arriving in the country from Greece, transiting to Serbia and further to Hungary, from where they generally aim to reach other countries in the European Union.

© UNICEF/NYHQ2015-2180/Georgiev
Amongst the urgent action needed for children are:
– Keeping family units together at all times, with family tracing and reunification programmes in place for children who are arriving unaccompanied or have become separated on the journey.
– Access to asylum procedures that are undertaken always with the best interests of the child as a priority.
– The provision of professional support and advice for children and their families that safeguard children’s rights, whatever their legal status, at every step of the process.
– Sufficient financial investment in child protection systems, services and capacities so children are supported by trained child welfare experts, with the same high standard of care provided to children across all Member States.
– Continued efforts to reduce the threat from smugglers and other risks. All children, especially those who are unaccompanied or separated from their families, are vulnerable to exploitation, violence and abuse, in transit and upon arrival in destination countries.
– Designing relocation and resettlement programmes and reception facilities that are child-focused; including adequate provision of healthcare, learning and play, and support and counselling to address the traumas children have experienced on their journey.
As more is done to protect and care for children arriving in and crossing Europe, continued international support is also needed for humanitarian and development efforts in countries of origin, along with efforts to end the conflicts and tackle the poverty that are leaving so many families with few options but to undertake perilous journeys in search of safety and opportunity.
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